Common Sailboat Rigging Terminology

Learn to sail faster and easier when you understand sailboat rigging terms used today in sailing. Sailing terms might seem a bit daunting, but learn these select few and you will be on your way to confident sailing–all the way!

Standing Rigging Keeps Your Mast Straight and True

Imagine that you want to install a super tall pole in front of your home or apartment. You dig a deep hold into the ground, shove the pole down into the hole and walk away. Now, as long as no forces act on that pole, it will stand straight and tall.

But let’s say later in the afternoon, a stiff breeze comes up. What will happen to your newly “planted” pole? You can almost bet that it will lean to one side (the “downwind” side or side opposite the wind). And, with a whole lot of wind, our pole could topple over!

We could have prevented this by making that pole stay in place with four wires. To brace the pole, we will spread the wires around the base of the pole. First, drive stakes around the base of the pole, spread in a somewhat circular shape, well away from the pole.

Next, attach each of the four wires to the top of the pole. Lead each wire to one of the stakes on the ground and tension each wire in turn so that the pole stands straight and true. Now, no matter which direction the wind blew from, our super tall pole would still stand straight and tall!

Keep your sailboat mast up on the boat with this same concept. Most sailboats have 4 sets of wires that support the mast, just like the pole in our scenario. The two sets of wires that support that mast at the bow and stern are called “stays”. The headstay leads from the top of the mast to the bow. The backstay leads from the back of the mast to the stern.

The two sets of wires that support the mast on its sides are called shrouds. Small sailing dinghies might have just one shroud on each side of the mast. Larger sailboats have two or more shrouds on each side. The shrouds that lead from the top of the mast to the side of the deck are called upper or “cap” shrouds. Intermediate shrouds that lead from a point lower on the mast to the side deck are called “lower” shrouds.

Running Rigging to Hoist and Trim Sails

Hoist your sails, move the boom in and out, or pull or ease a sail and you will use running rigging. Halyards are used to raise a sail just like you raise a flag on a flagpole.

Once you raise the sail, you need some method to control the sail. Use sail “sheets”, rope or rope and block combinations help control the sail. The mainsail uses a mainsheet attached near the end of the sailboat boom. Pull in or ease off on the mainsheet to trim the mainsail for speed and power.

Other running rigging used to trim the mainsail includes the outhaul, boom vang, downhaul, Cunningham, and reefing lines.

Sails set forward of the mast, called headsails, include jibs, Genoas, and staysails. Headsails use a single line attached to the sail called a “sheet” attached to the lower aft corner of the sail. Pull in or ease off on the headsail sheet to trim the sail.

Other running rigging used to trim headsails includes furling lines and reefing lines.

Learn to sail smoother, faster, and easier when you understand basic sailing terms like these. You will soon be able to sail with confidence–wherever in the world you choose to go sailing!

Sailing Pointers for Novices

You will surely love sailing since it is a very enthralling leisure pursuit. However, you have to become an expert in maneuvering sailboats. There are several websites and videos that provide tips in sailing for both greenhorns and professionals. The important thing is to learn fundamental techniques so you can cope with different situations.

  • Beginners should opt for tranquil waters where there are few vessels. This will allow you to concentrate and avoid circumstances that may lead to panic. You can even begin training in a contained harbor. The most important are bow and aft which are the front and back portions of the vessel respectively. The rudder is the object under the boat that has the function of steering the craft.
  • Find out the prevailing weather condition and refrain from sailing if the weather is stormy or there are gusty winds. Be sure that you know how to swim.
  • Opt for a small boat complete with safety tools and one that you can control easily. Experts say that you have to be familiar with the flow of the wind and the boom which enhances control of angles and shape of the sail. Study the essential sailing terminologies as well.
  • It is faster to learn sailing if the boat has a single sail and fewer lines. It is also ideal to practice “keeling” over so you will know how to react if it you are faced with the threat of actual capsizing. Practice a lot since this is the only way for you to become a proficient sailor. Capsize intentionally so you will know how to control the sailboat in such situation.
  • There are safety measures that you have to practice before going out to the sea. Make it a point to inform family members that you will be sailing. Do not forget to bring floating implements such as life jackets, drifters and waterproof containers. Check out the latest weather forecast and carry with you ample food and water supplies, appropriate clothes and water-resistant flashlights. It pays to be prepared for all situations.
  • You have to become skilled at controlling the boat. The most competent sailor must be capable of adjusting to different sail settings as well as water and wind conditions. The cardinal rule is that it must be moderately flat if the wind is light or blowing hard. On the other hand, you have to maintain a full sail when the wind is normal.
  • Be careful with your sail boom to avoid unexpected accidents. You should know when the boom is in the process of moving back and forth to avoid being hit or thrown overboard. In sailing terms, the crew and passengers should be aware and respect the boom at all times.
  • Do not hesitate in consulting colleagues or relatives with considerable sailing experience to acquire additional pointers. Be alert when you sail since there are other vessels in open seas. This will help you avoid collisions and other mishaps. Maintain a safe speed at all times.

Learn to Sail Like a Pro – How to Use a Sailboat Winch

Learn to sail with confidence when you know the safe, easy way to put sailboat winches to work. These mechanical devices save you time and effort and help you trim sails for power and speed. Read on to learn how to put these “sailing workhorses” to work aboard your sailboat.

Imagine that you need to trim your sail in a heavy breeze. You grab the line, pull hard, and find it almost impossible to hold because of the tension created by the wind. Enter the sailboat winch!

These mechanical helpers are shaped something like an hourglass. The middle part–called a drum–has gears inside. These gears, along with a winch handle (more on this later), multiply the mechanical advantage of the winch to save you a lot of back-breaking work!

The wide bottom mounts onto the deck of your sailboat. The wide top–or plate–has a hole in the middle. You insert the winch handle into this hole and turn the handle, which turns the gears and drum of the winch. Follow these five easy steps for safe sailing and sail trimming.

1. Lead the Line in Up to the Winch

Check to make sure that the line you want to take to the winch leads (points) up to the winch. You may find on some boats that the line leads down to a winch–and that can be dangerous.

You can change the lead of a line with a block. Sail sheets (control lines) pass through blocks first before they get to the winch. Blocks that help point the line in the correct direction to the winch are often called “lead blocks”, because the “lead” or “redirect” the line in the correct direction to the winch.

Position lead blocks between the sail clew and winch in such a way that the sail sheet will lead up to the winch at a slight angle. Keep the block just a bit lower than the drum of the winch. This will insure that the sail sheet always leads at an upward angle to the winch drum for safe sailing when you use your sailboat winch.

2. Wrap the Sheet Clockwise

Pull the sheet to the winch and make a full turn (circle) around the drum in a clockwise direction. Full turns on a winch are called “wraps”. Build wraps onto a winch drum by keeping each successive wrap parallel to the previous wrap, flat against the drum. Avoid stacking wraps on top of one another. This can lead to an “override” or jammed turns that will cause the wraps to freeze onto the drum. Keep the wraps next to one another for safe, smooth, easy sail trim.

3. Count the Wraps

On small boats make a single wrap around the winch drum to remove the slack from a loose sail sheet. Then wrap it one or two more times to hold the sheet in place. On larger boats, wrap the line three to four turns to hold it in place. More wraps creates more friction on the drum to keep the line from slipping. Increase the number of wraps for thinner line.

After you wrap the line two to four times, pull on the line with slight tension to hold the wraps in place. This action–called “tailing” places light tension on the wraps to keep them aligned on the drum. Some winches are self-tailing, which means they have two “clam-shell” plates on top to hold the line for you. After you complete the wraps around the drum, jam the line into the clam plates and make a full wrap.

4. Grind on the Winch

Trim your sail by turning the winch drum. This pulls in the sheet or halyard so that you can shape your sails for speed or power. Insert a winch handle into the center hole in the top plate of the winch drum. Stand up, hover over the winch and keep your back straight. Hold the sheet or line with your non-dominant hand and grind (turn the winch handle) with your dominant hand. When finished grinding (unless you use self-tailing winches), remove the winch handle. Cleat off the line. Make the cleat hitch without the final locking hitch. That way, you will be able to release the sheet fast and easy for trimming, tacking, or jibing.

5. Ease or Cast Off

Use your dominant hand to ease a sail sheet (let it out). First, remove the sheet from the cleat or remove the single wrap from inside the clam plates on a self-tailing winch. Hold the line with moderate tension to keep the wraps in place. Place the palm of your non-dominant hand against the wraps on the drum with moderate pressure. This will keep the wraps stacked without overrides as you ease the sheet. Use a smooth motion to ease the sheet an inch or two, then hold (brake”) the sheet with your palm. Ease and brake, ease and brake, in a smooth, easy motion.

You will cast off the line or sheet when you change tacks, jibe, or need to lower a sail. Wait until you have eased the line as described above. Pull straight up and out off the drum of the winch and let the turns spin off the winch. Allow the sheet or line to run through your hand. If tacking or jibing, drop the sheet and move to the sheet on the opposite side of the cockpit. Repeat the steps above to trim the opposite sheet. When finished, stow the winch handle, coil sheets or lines and get ready for the next tack or jibe.

Follow these easy sailing tips to use any sailboat winch fast and easy. Sail with confidence when you know how to sail in safety–wherever in the world your choose to cruise!

Learn to Sail With Magic Shroud Telltales

If you are anything like me, you are always on the lookout for sailing tips that make sailing easier with less effort. When you first learn to sail, it can be tough to “see the wind”. You can feel the wind on your cheek or the back of your neck. But how can you see it? Check out these three simple, non-electronic type wind indicators that are available for sailors:

Types of Apparent Wind Indicators

Sail Luff Telltales

Your Genoa or mainsail may carry telltales–small strips of yarn or ribbon–attached the luff (in the case of a headsail) or the leech (on a mainsail). These telltales show the flow of apparent wind across the sail. But sail telltales can be tough to see. You have to bend down, crane your neck to see the luff of your Genoa. And when you sail short-handed or by yourself, that can be a lot of work. Plus the fact that luff telltales just show the apparent wind flow across one sail.

Masthead Fly

If you have a wind “fly” at the masthead, this miniature wind-vane shows how the wind flows across the boat. It’s just about the perfect apparent wind indicator because it’s not obstructed or blocked by another sail, mast, rigging, or blocked by land nearby. But masthead flys can be tough to see way up at the top of your mast.

Shroud Telltales

Shroud telltales are an easier alternative to the masthead fly and still give you a great picture of how the apparent wind flows across your boat. They’re easier to use than luff telltales for shorthanded sailors because you don’t need to bend down and strain to see the luff of your Genoa or headsail. Best of all, they are cheap, easy to make, and super simple to use. Follow these three easy steps to make and mount your shroud telltales in just a few minutes:

1. Find the Right Material for Shroud Telltales

Go down to your local fabric and sewing store. Find the aisle that sells yarn. Buy a roll of Angora wool yarn. Dark colors are good for daytime sailing, while brighter colors stand out better at night. Angora wool makes the best telltale because it’s light and shows direction even in those super light morning zephyrs.

2. Make and Attach Your Shroud Telltales

Cut off two 6″ to 9″ strips of wool. Attach the yarn to the upper shroud on each side, as high off the deck as possible. You want the yarn in clear air so that it’s not blocked by your cabin roof, Bimini top, or spray dodger.

3. Match Your Telltale to the Point of Sail

Use a “sail and study” method to learn to read the shroud telltale. Sail onto each point of sail, get the boat steady, and watch the telltale. Observe how it points. After a few times of doing this, you will be able to recognize just how the telltale should look when beating, reaching, or running.

How to Use Your Shroud Telltales

Concentrate on three specific points of sail: beating (close hauled), beam reaching, and running. On each point of sail, observe the angle that your shroud telltales make. This takes a bit of practice and patience.

For beating, find that “razor’s edge” between luffing and sailing. Glance at the windward side shroud telltale. Note how it makes a slight angle off the bow. Hold your course and concentrate on that angle. Fall off a bit and note how your windward shroud telltale changes its angle. Head up back to a beat (close hauled course). Again, note the shroud telltale angle. Repeat this several times until this shroud telltale angle becomes second nature to you.

Follow this same sequence with a beam reach and running course. As you can see, shroud telltales will force you to first find the point of sail and then assist you to hold that point of sail. This will make you less reliant on luff telltales and take less effort because they will always be visible while you steer from your tiller or wheel.

Use these three fast, easy steps on your journey to learn to sail better than ever before. You will increase your speed, power, and performance on any point of sail–wherever in the world you choose to sail!